MANILA -- Broadcast journalist Atom Araullo will be making his acting debut in "Citizen Jake," billed as the comeback film of acclaimed auteur Mike de Leon.
The 34-year-old reporter plays Jake Herrera, also a journalist, in De Leon's first movie in 17 years.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News' Marie Lozano on Wednesday, Araullo opened up about his incredibly challenging role and said that his similarities with Herrera end with their job titles.
"Jake is a completely different person than Atom," he shared. "He is also a journalist pero magkaibang mundo iyong ginagalawan namin. ...Jake is a product of his circumstances."
A teaser for "Citizen Jake" was unveiled late last month, giving fans a glimpse of the enigmatic title character, who also appears to hold a vile perception towards local politics.
An official synopsis has yet to be released for the mysterious flick, which is set some time during the country's election period.
Araullo described the movie as "courageous" in tackling subject matters that, he said, will resonate with many Filipinos today. He was all praises for De Leon, who is credited for modern masterpieces such as "Kisapmata" and "Batch '81."
"Si Direk Mike kilala bilang matapang na filmmaker at individual at 'di siya natatakot magtlakay ng tema na madalas ay hindi hinahawakan ng director at ibang writer," he said.
Araullo, who is also the film's co-scriptwriter, said working with De Leon is a rewarding experience. "It is every actor's dream come true because really you learn so much. It's like going through a really, really great and intense workshop in filmmaking."
He gushed that there is no better director to work with for his debut. "Dahil talagang pinush niya talaga ako to give everything I have to ensure na maging successful iyong project."
Araullo joins a star-studded cast, which includes Cherie Gil, Dina Bonnevie, Gabby Eigenmann, Luis Alandy, Max Collins, Teroy Guzman, and Nonie Buencamino.
"They made me look good," he quipped.
Turning serious, he added: "Wala kang choice kung hindi sabayan sila. ...Mapipilitan ka to step up your game kasi otherwise ay iiwanan ka nila."
The movie has already wrapped up shooting. According to Araullo, he would love to have it included in the official list of entries to this year's Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
"Sana lang magkaroon ng puwang para sa mga diverse na pelikula. Tingin ko, serbisyo iyon sa mga tao eh na mayroon silang opportunity to watch films of all kinds," he reasoned.
"And I don't know what will happen pero we will make sure that it's worthy of being shown at the MMFF, kung makapasok."
The first four entries have already been announced, to much controversy. The decision to include movies starring traditionally huge commercial draws did not sit well with some members of the film festival's executive committee, forcing their resignations.
In a joint statement, Ricky Lee, Rolando Tolentino and Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala expressed their disappointment that this year's MMFF "took a different direction, by putting too much emphasis on commerce over art."
According to Araullo, "Citizen Jake," despite the "unconventional storytelling" De Leon employed, will appeal to the masses as it mirrors most of the Filipinos' current struggles.
"It's a little complex pero hopefully hindi naman masyadong esoteric, meaning na masusundan pa rin at masakyan pa rin ng mga manonood," he argued.